How to Conquer Nutrition Information Overload

Who and what should we believe when it comes to nutrition?

This is a loaded question and there isn’t an easy answer. I could tell you to believe what your dietitian, doctor, nurse, psychologist, trainer, psychiatrist, pharmacist, nutritionist, certified holistic nutritionist, diet coach, wellness coach, social worker, food blogger, the media, advertisements, research papers, nutrition books or magazines have told you. However, that wouldn’t be completely true. The truth is everyone has some knowledge about nutrition because we all eat food and some of it is taught in schools. For example, most post-secondary health care degree programs have at least one required nutrition course. Thus, we all have some knowledge of food and nutrition. Additionally, our knowledge of food and nutrition is influenced by our cultural backgrounds and personal experiences. We may have had some really good experiences or some really bad experiences with certain foods or diets we have tried.

What do we do with all our knowledge and experiences? We share it with coworkers, friends, family, clients and social media followers because food is a core part of our lives. We eat food several times each day, so doesn’t it make sense that we would talk about it and share our experiences with one another? Talking about a topic that everyone can relate to helps us feel connected and validated when people take our knowledge into consideration.

So how in the world do you combat this information overload?

My advice is to question everything you hear. Never just assume what you hear is correct unless you can validate it. The best place to start is with someone who has the most education in the field, which would be a registered dietitian nutritionist. Dietitians are the only nutrition profession regulated by a governing body (meaning they need to be evidence-based). You want to make sure you seek someone who has experience in the area you have questions about. I always look for someone who is well read and can discuss research papers because this tells me the individual is keeping pace with the constant changes in scientific literature. Another important attribute to look for is someone who can synthesize the research, solve problems and think outside the box when the general recommendations are not working for you – because the reality is we are all different, and an approach that is successful for one person, may not work well for another.

Another important thing to keep in mind with this information overload is that research is continually evolving. There are always new things to learn, and old information to discard. Thus, it’s important that the media, food industry and health care professionals be careful with the messaging they give to the public. The food industry is notorious for using claims on their products to woo us into buying their goods. The media has also been known to sensationalize stories to lure us into watching their programs or read their articles. Additionally, health care professionals can speak out of turn and comment on topics they may not be well versed in. All are done without any malicious intent, but simply to help provide understanding. What we fail to appreciate though, is that information overload leads to mass confusion.

What happens when we are confused?

When we are confused, we simply shut down and really, who can blame us? What’s the point of listening to anyone or anything we hear because there always seems to be contradicting information? I would caution against this though, and instead say we need to follow the above recommendations.

Creating change

If you are working on changing your habits in relation to nutrition, fitness or lifestyle, remember that behaviour change doesn’t feel comfortable. So when we hear conflicting information about something we are doing, it can be very easy to give up and stop doing it. Instead of feeling discouraged and quitting, I encourage you to ask questions to clarify the answers. Seek out an expert in the field you have questions about, as he or she will have the knowledge to help you decipher what you have heard. Second opinions never hurt either, and it’s important to find someone you feel comfortable working with!

Looking for that second opinion? Get connected with one of our registered dietitian nutritionists*! Real life change happens through authentic relationships, and we are here to help you build the knowledge and skills to lead a happier and healthier life!

*Most benefit plans cover dietetic services. Check with your provider for coverage details.